Famous dogs have been a part of movie magic since the beginning of time. From Lassie saving the day to Toto discovering the true identity of Oz and Benji providing a helping hand, dogs have played a pivotal role in films. Well, this may become a thing of the past. That is, according to comments made by Dr. Michael Lawrence, a professor of film studies at the University of Sussex in England, according to the Telegraph.
According to him, along with other academics, the advances of technology, specifically computer-generated imagery (CGI), may make it impractical to use real-life animals. CGI not only costs less but also is easier.
So, instead of tirelessly working with a dog to do on-demand commands, like barking, running or tricks, professionals can achieve the same results without the use of trainers on set.
“The technological mediation of dog actors’ performances by digital effects allows contemporary film-makers to overcome such problems and present – should they so wish – dogs flying and talking at the same time,” Lawrance wrote. “Supplementing real dogs with digital animation produces performances that are much more effective dramatically; they are also more appealing because [they are] more anthropomorphically expressive to suit story needs – and economically – they are less time-consuming and therefore less expensive because [they are] no longer determined by the unpredictable or intractable volition of real animals, however well-trained.”
While it may be disheartening to no longer have our four-legged friends steal scenes in films, it may be a change in the right direction. The comments come after PETA complained that owls used at Harry Potter film studios in Hertfordshire appeared distressed. This isn’t an isolated situation.
As it has been reported for some time, animals on film can be overworked, stressed out and mistreated. Films and television shows including the The Hobbit, Life of Pi and Eight Below, to name just a few, have been specifically called out for the mistreatment of animals. HBO even cancelled its show, Luck, after four horses died on set, causing a huge media backlash.
While some of these situations can arise from unpreventable circumstances, others are the result of cutting corners in order to achieve a higher profit margin, or not having an adequate budget. In a feature in The Hollywood Reporter, the American Humane Association, the organization behind “No Animals Were Harmed” came under scrutiny for not living up to the role of protecting animals on sets. Much has to do with the cozy relationship between the AHA and the companies it monitors.
Some directors, including Darren Aronofsky for his film Noah, have opted to just use digitally-created animals.
Aronofsky called the use of real-animals “dangerous”
“It was also morally ambiguous considering we were making a film about the first naturalist, Noah, who saved and cared for all the varied species on the planet,” he said in a statement. “Luckily, CGI has evolved to a point where filmmakers can do almost anything and bring any creature to life. I was happy with the results, and I encourage other filmmakers to look at digital solutions before enlisting live animals.”